Grafting a mulberry tree

MulberryGrafting121

The mulberry tree (Morus nigra) in my front-yard food forest has proven to be a less-than-exciting variety. Here it is:

It makes decent fruit but they’re not all that big and they’re not nearly as prolific as my “Illinois Everbearing” tree out back.

However, the tree has grown well for the last four years and has some good roots beneath it at this point so there’s no way I’m taking it out.

Instead, I’ve decided to multi-graft it with more exciting varieties.

I started this project on Wednesday of this week.

First, I decided to take off the top of the tree. It was getting too tall for easy harvesting.

Then I took off some of the branches that were growing too close to the ground.

Once the tree was cleaned up a bit, it was time to start grafting. I picked a good branch for my first graft and made a cleft in the middle with my trusty Leatherman:

Then I sharpened up a couple of scions of “6th Street,” a prolific black variety. When they were trimmed nicely, I popped the first one in.

You need to put them in carefully so you don’t snap the long, thin wedge. Using the blade of a knife helps.

After that, I added the second one.

Ta-da!

Next I tied it up tightly to pull the cambium layers together.

Your main enemy when grafting a mulberry tree (or anything else) is having the graft dry out, killing the scion before it can join to the root stock. This is why you wrap it up tightly or paint the wound with tree sealer. Or both. In this case, I wrapped everything with parafilm.

grafting a mulberry tree

And here’s the final graft, labeled with an aluminum tag:

I also added a few scions of “Saharanpor Local Mulberry,” a long-fruited white type, to another branch on the tree, this time using “whip and tongue” grafts to match like-sized wood.

Over time I’m going to keep adding varieties to this tree. Since my space is limited, I can just use this tree as a source of propagative material for my nursery as well as for fruit. Instead of planting all the varieties of mulberry I carry, I can graft on branches and later use them for cuttings I can add to the mist house.

Of course, there’s really no reason at all for doing the following… except for SCIENCE!

What is that graft, you say?

It’s a Brown Turkey fig I whip-and-tongued onto this black mulberry.

Will a fig on mulberry graft work? I have no idea, but the trees are cousins so I’m giving it a try. I got a really tight fit with that graft, then wrapped it up after the photo was taken. I think it would be crazy cool if I was able to grow figs on a mulberry tree…

The winter has been so warm I just couldn’t wait to start grafting. I’ve got quite a few experiments going and if any of them succeed I’ll be quite pleased.

Other than the mulberry, today I added nectarine, sweet cherry and plum grafts onto Chickasaw plum, sweet cherry and nectarine onto a Flatwoods plum, and sweet cherry onto a wild black cherry tree (Prunus serotina). I’m curious to see if they’ll take. All are cousins… so the chance is there.

I’ll keep you posted.

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21 comments

  • Good luck man! It seems it will be an interesting growing season coming up for you. I haven't yet grown the testicular fortitude to try tree grafts. I tried cactus once and failed but I know what the problems were so when I try again I will succeed! Looking forward to seeing what works out for you!

  • Have you ever seen someone graft successfully to a Carolina cherry laurel? I have several cut back around my house and as a prunus I suspect you might be able to graft plums or cherries to it. Maybe if I can get my hands on some plum or cherry scions I will give it a go. Would be nice to take advantage of some good 5-7 year root systems. These things grow like weeds around my house too.

  • That is going to be a fun tree!

  • I just wonder if the grafted fruit (ie cherries, plums, nectarines) will have enough "cold hours" being in FL. Cold hours or lack thereof is what precludes growing most if not all stone fruits in FL. I know because I grew up in St. Petersburg and my family owned citrus groves.

  • Cool! I want to know if the sweet cherry grafts work and if the fruit isn't all diseased because of the summer rain. That's what's holding me back from trying a Stella here in Crestview, FL where we usually have over 1000 chill hours. I want a sweet cherry so bad I can taste it, but at least I finally got a Spring Satin plumcot on Guardian, and that has a great chance of doing well here.

    Our mulberry trees planted last year (bought from justfruitsandexotics.com, south of Tallahassee), are already growing fruit. I'm sad that the Pakistan variety freezes in Crestview because the fruit is supposed to be non-staining. We had one before we moved from Fort Walton Beach, and I never found stains on anything. The fruit was so delicious, I hope these new varieties taste as good. One Wacissa, one Illinois Everbearing, and one mystery, plus 5 "Tice" named for where the variety originated in Florida. If you ever find out what variety the latter is, pure or white mixed with red or whatever, please let me know. I'm curious, and the mature size will help me decide where to move them from the temporary spots I planted them to shade the new pawpaws.

    This whole farming adventure is heavy on the research aspect, and your blog is proving to be very helpful. Since I emailed you, I found some purple sweet potatoes and some cassava, and I'm exited to get them planted. Thanks!

  • David–how is the fig/mulberry graft going?

  • It is a year later and time for an update. Did the fig onto mulberry live?

    • I commented on it somewhere. Fail! Worth a try, though.

      • Oh no! I like the experimentation though. I am just getting my mini orchard started and looking forward to my first grafts this spring. I have some apple scion wood coming in.

  • I like this site. my grandfather grafted every fruit tree he could for his whole life. I regret that I didn’t spend time with him leaning his craft, as he was a bit too cantankerous for me to enjoy time with him. most of the time he’d send me home before we started, because I didn’t arrive knowing everything he knew, and the was no internet to learn it on. consequently, I am self teaching myself to graft. I started with my Calamondon oranges, Hamlin Oranges, Meyer Lemons, and Key Limes. and a couple of rose types. So far a couple of Hamlin Oranges seemed to take on the Calamondon root stock. I’m very excited about this because we live in northern Florida on the gulf coast, where regular Orange trees used to grow but have been freezing for a few years. while the tiny sour calamondons live on, unscathed for years. I also clipped short stems off a few beautiful yellow roses from a dozen I bought my wife, and grafted them to root stock that grows old scraggly white ones that fall to the ground almost instantly. I’m hoping to get Hamlin oranges that can stand the 2 weeks to 1 month of winter here 25 mi north of Tampa. and my wife’s favorite roses growing in our yard. I also am planning to try grafting sweet red cherries to the wild black tart cherry trees that grow all over our place over 60 ft tall and impevious to weather and moisture changes.

    • Thank you, Daag.

      I tried grafting sweet cherries to our black cherry last spring without success. It’s supposedly impossible but I couldn’t help but try anyways.

      Good work with the calamondin/orange graft. I talk about that in my “Get Grafting!” video. It really is fun to cross varieties that way. And yeah, those calamondins are really hardy.

      Too bad your grandpa wasn’t able to include you better. Hopefully you can break that cycle, learn to graft well, then include future children in the process.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • I wanted a Black mulberry, but got a White by mistake (by the nursery) Now it,s grown quite big but the fruits are worthsless, so I decided to try grafting some Black twigs onto it, however I was told by a ‘specialist’ that that would not work!!
    I am very curious to hear if your eksperiment has succeded?

    • My white/black grafts failed, but I only tried it this one time. I would try, try again if I were in your situation. Actually, there ARE white mulberries with very good fruit, so if you could find twigs from those to use for grafting you’d still be improving that tree. Much better than cutting it down.

  • Hi from Western Australia. I have a brilliant Chinese Mulberry growing in my sandy garden. It fruits twice a year so we pick in Mar/April (our Autum) and Oct/Nov (early Summer). Our seasons are upside down here!
    The fruit is very big and juicy. This month we have picked about 40 Kilograms from the one tree. The only downside is that the storks are quite long and a bit woody so we either make jam/jelly or spend ages cutting off the stems. I have managed to find a very old English Mulberry nearby which doesn’t have the woody stems so I will try to graft some cuttings using your inspiration. Will keep you posted of the results. By the way the trunk of my tree is not very thick but the surface root system is enormous and covers a huge area.

  • Francisco Martin

    Hello
    Wonder what type of mulberry does graft well on Pakistani mulberry ??
    Am told that better wait for summer to do Mulberry grafting using chip and/or T budding ?? Agree ?

    Thank you
    Francisco

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